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Just Amazing

I’ve hearing about the missing airliner on the radio, but reading things like the BBC article, Malaysia Airlines MH370: Search for missing plane resumes, and related stories, I’m simply amazed that commercial airliners are not tracked as well as the sleds in the Yukon Quest or the Iditarod.

Having a beeper ping once an hour when an aircraft is flying at 400+mph isn’t a lot of help in locating it if something goes wrong. You would think that airlines would want rescuers to reach the scene of an accident as soon as possible, and it really isn’t that much more expensive to add the capability to a jetliner.

Just amazing.


1 Kryten42 { 03.26.14 at 6:13 am }

*shrug* According to CNN, FOX and other US News Servicesmorons (one a retired US General), it’s all a Muslim terrorist plot to hijack a Jumbo! Though, there is some dissent. Others in the group think it was a mini black hole, and others blame the Bermuda Triangle! PMSL

Jon Stewart is having a field day/week! 😆

2 Shirt { 03.26.14 at 5:13 pm }

the “black box” technology is stupid in the sense its designed to survive almost anything. If you have ever used a 64GBit flash drive you have to wonder why dozens of these aren’t embedded in buoyant plane elements, crash survivable elements and the like for regular updating from the black box. Only one needs to be found to answer most questions. Likewise for satellite pinging technology.

3 Badtux { 03.26.14 at 10:12 pm }

There is actually a requirement that such tracking be done in the future, but the current technology doesn’t have the interconnection between the GPS system and the engine system that’s doing the pinging to do it. Remember that regulators and aircraft companies are *extremely* conservative about these things. Even more conservative than banks, because if you manage to crash your engine control computer with GPS data you’re going down. The interconnection is supposed to be there in the system that’s mandated for 2018, but it’s an *optional* system outside of the US, so it’s unclear Malaysia Airlines would have bought it in the first place since they cheaped out on the engine data plan. The reality is that probably 2/3rds of the airliners on the planet are operated by 3rd world countries that are running them on a shoestring, and there’s no way to mandate that they use the latest technology for their aircraft (at least, not while their aircraft are flying to *other* third world countries).

4 Bryan { 03.26.14 at 11:33 pm }

Given the flight plan and the flight path as reported by radar sites and the pinging, something was definitely not right in the cockpit. It is possible that the destination data was entered into the autopilot incorrectly, but there are a couple of serious turns shown by the data, that would have been obvious to the flight crew.

Without more data, the reason may never be found. At this point all explanations fall under the heading of ‘wild ass guesses’, not informed commentary.

Shirt, back in the 1960s, if one of the plane I flew on went down, the pre-GPS equivalent used would have been available, as it was recorded on reel–to-reel magnetic tape, along with other information. The tapes were 4-track, and one of the tracks was dedicated to location information. The data could be collected the same way ‘way points’ are saved on personal GPS units. The problem would be the system to release them .

They want a complicated system. A simpler system that pinged every 10 minutes would be a big improvement over the current system of once an hour, Badtux. The ‘black boxes’ would still be the main repository, but there needs to be a system that reduces the search area for the flight data recorders. If it isn’t a cheap and easy fix, the smaller airlines won’t do it.

5 Badtux { 03.27.14 at 1:34 am }

Bryan, the current Boeing system for engine telemetry is subscription based and sends the data once every 5 minutes or when engine settings change — if you pay for a subscription. If you don’t, it only pings with a much smaller subset of the data once per hour. Guess what, 3rd world airlines don’t pay for subscriptions for such things. Air France does, which is why we had a good idea where to find that Airbus 330, though it took two years to find the actual black boxes.

Which is why I made the comment about how even if they have a system for pinging GPS data, it’s unlikely that airlines like Malaysia Air would pay to activate it.

6 Bryan { 03.27.14 at 1:41 pm }

Yeah, you need the ‘demand’, usually in the form of a government order or law, to get the small carriers to do things that will cost them money. The dog sled races cover costs of the tracking, but if there isn’t a problem, small operators aren’t inclined to pay for anything they haven’t needed in the past. Malaysia Air will probably pay for a subscription after this, but that won’t affect most of the second and third world air carriers.

The black boxes are probably about 10,000 feet down in that area, so it will be drones doing the searching. It is an area of strong winds and fast currents, so finding debris won’t shrink the search area very much.